Sunday, October 30, 2011

Buzz Kill.....

            Clemson’s eight game win streak is now over but all is not lost. As disappointed as I am with yesterday’s performance and outcome, this team is 8-1 and is one win against Wake Forest from securing a trip to Charlotte. I did not see any of the game until the game was well in hand for the Yellow Jackets due to a family wedding in Delaware. I could have it worse, my in-laws got ten inches of snow and were looking at the real possibility of going back to a house with no power this morning so maybe losing a football game is not so bad.

            Bump that, I would rather be in the dark unable to type this than have lost to Georgia Tech but you have to give the Jackets a tip of the cap. They weathered the early onslaught, made adjustments, got momentum and never looked back. The Clemson defense forced two consecutive three and outs to start the game. The offense came out and could only muster a field goal in the first half. Georgia Tech did not take long to make the adjustment up front they needed to make and never looked back.

            Georgia Tech took advantage of Clemson’s glaring deficiencies at linebacker. You remember what I said about Tech making defenses, read, get off blocks and tackle? Well Clemson showed that it was not up to the task of playing fundamental defense and got lit up. I also said it would not take much for the once struggling Georgia Tech offense to find some confidence to get on a roll. Simply put, Georgia Tech took it to Clemson and Clemson failed to respond.

            From an offensive perspective, Clemson missed Andre Ellington. I was excited to see what DJ Howard could do when it was announced he would start last Thursday. Not to say Howard cannot and will not be a productive back for the Tigers, he just does not have the intangibles and ball security of Andre Ellington. As talented as Mike Bellamy is, the youngster does not have the trust of the coaching staff to be left out there in key moments.

            The Georgia Tech defense known for being vanilla as a wafer came to life last night. Yellow Jacket defensive coordinator Al Groh dialed a blitz package that would have made Nick Saban smile last night. Once again, Clemson did not have an answer from an execution stand point. Once you are down 24-3, any defensive coordinator can cut it loose from a play calling perspective when they know you have to throw the ball and that is what Georgia Tech did.

            You can lose the turnover battle against a team like Maryland and still have a chance. You simply cannot turn the ball over four times, once in the red zone and expect to win against a team of Georgia Tech’s caliber. Running backs cannot fumble and sadly you throw enough passes when the defense knows you have to throw and you are likely to get one or two picked off, it is not a recipe for success.

            All was not lost last night. Sammy Watkins had another big night. The true freshman continues to shine. The young man from Naples, FL had ten catches for 159 yards and a touchdown catch. He was the lone bright spot on a night that Clemson would suffer its first loss of the year.

            Do not let the national pundits tell you anything about Clemson pulling a Clemson. It just was not the case, Georgia Tech dictated tempo and won the battle along the line of scrimmage throughout the ball game and that was the difference. As much as the idea of going undefeated was dancing in my head, I think you have to appreciate just how difficult it is to do.

            The season is not over for the 2011 Clemson Football team, with Wake Forest’s lost to North Carolina on Saturday, the matchup on November 12 will be for the Atlantic Division Championship. Simply, Clemson defeats Wake Forest and you can book your hotel rooms for Charlotte. The key thing to remember is that all of this team’s goals are still in front of it. Win the Division, Win the State Championship and Win the Conference.

            On a negative note, it was reported that the house where quarterback Tajh Boyd lives was egged last night following the game. It has been reported that his family has filed a complaint with the Clemson Police Department. Whoever was involved with this regardless of it were merely Halloween shenanigans or the incident was targeted as a response to the outcome of the game, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That type of behavior is juvenile and I dare say when the party or parties involved are caught they are likely going to wish they had not been involved with such a sophomoric act.

            Clemson heads into the off week and it could not come at a better time. This team is physically and mentally worn out, I strongly believe that time away from the field and each other will do this team a lot of good. I would imagine the team will practice two to three times this week. They will be off for the weekend, which will allow most of them to go home and get away from Clemson. I know that was a hurt locker room last night but I strongly believe that you will see a healthier and rejuvenated team take the field on November 12 Senior Day and the final home game for the 2011 season.

            Continue to keep your heads held high. Enjoy a weekend away from football. Though, I am excited to watch the LSU-Alabama game next Saturday night. The dream is still alive and we still have a lot to be excited about!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Day at the Office…..

           Joe Sherman could not have known the prophetic and transcendent power his words would have on future generations of Tigers when he wrote his essay “Something in these Hills”. I felt that intimate closeness as I entered the upstate of South Carolina last Saturday. I knew I was “home” when the reddest of rednecks started chatting football with me, speaking in barely intelligible southern English about how the NFL was going to come looking at Coach Morris. Maybe it was the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains when you turn onto Fants Grove Road off of Highway 187 heading into Clemson.

            Maybe it has to do with the fact that I live 521 miles from the place I have lived longer than another place in my life? Could it have been the anticipation of seeing old friends and reconnecting with people I had not seen in awhile? Or was it the cool crisp fall weather that had cloaked the area prompting the early signs of fall color? It must have been the chance to see the 7-0 Clemson Tigers take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.

 I know most people who did not grow up in the south or have not known me for years have a hard time grasping my love and devotion for my alma mater. It came to a fever pitch the Friday before the Auburn game, when I was brought to tears that I would not be able to travel to Clemson for the Auburn game. At the time I was in need of surgery and was feeling as miserable as I had ever felt but I wanted to be in the one place that could make me forget about everything else….Clemson.

            There is always a rush of emotion as I enter the gates at Memorial Stadium, as I walk underneath the stands towards section E. I enter the portal, my heart starts to almost palpitate, I can here the angels beginning to sing, I can see the light leading me towards the Promised Land better known as “Death Valley.” Again, I know there are some who think I am crazy and I probably am but there is no place like home and that is what I felt Saturday as I finally got to see my Tigers play in person at in the friendly confines of Clemson, SC.

            It was one of those days where I tried to soak it all in. From the pregame festivities, to watching the Tigers run down the hill, the opening kickoff, half time and the post game singing of the alma mater. What a tremendous day to be alive in Clemson, SC.

            In the midst of all these emotions was a football game. A game that I was unsure of the outcome heading into the contest. Much had been written and talked about regarding the talent along the North Carolina defensive front seven. I had watched the undermanned 2010 edition of the Tar Heels dominate Clemson in Chapel Hill. I knew and I think the Tar Heel football staff knew they were facing a different animal last Saturday.

            It was not all that pretty early on but in typical 2011 Clemson fashion, these guys hung in there. You have to give North Carolina credit, they did a lot of different things especially on defense in an attempt to disrupt the Clemson offense. They played zone and dropped their corners off our receivers, they blitzed, UNC played zero coverage (no safety help, everyone is man to man because you are blitzing the everyone and the kitchen sink), they played quarters (zone defense with defensive backs responsible for ¼ of the field) but nothing worked. The fun part of Saturday is that Coach Morris and the offense had an answer for everything the Tar Heels tried to do and executed.

            This was not an issue of the stars aligning, it was an issue of being well coached and well prepared for a multitude of situations. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Tajh Boyd threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers in three quarters of play. Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 151 yards of receiving and a touchdown catch.

            The defense was not to be outdone on Saturday. The starters gave up 17 points before third and fourth team guys came at the start of the fourth quarter and gave up two touchdowns. It was good to see guys who we may need down the stretch or in the future get their feet wet for an entire quarter of football.  I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to fifth year senior Kourtnei Brown who scored two touchdowns Saturday, one via interception and the other by fumble recovery. The first time since 1958 a Clemson defensive player had scored multiple touchdowns in a game.

            All was not rosy from the game on Saturday. Clemson’s man based defense continues to be susceptible to the deep ball. Tar Heel quarterback Bryn Renner was able to complete two long touchdown passes against single coverage on Saturday. Clemson continues to miss kickoff specialist Spencer Benton who was lost to a broken collarbone in the Virginia Tech. The short kickoffs coupled with shoddy coverage leads to good field position for the opposition. It goes to say there is never a perfect game and there are always things to improve on.

            The Tigers are now 8-0 heading into a Saturday night primetime game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I do not care that Georgia Tech has lost two in a row, I do not care if their offensive production has taken a hit the last three games, it is Georgia Tech and the games between these two schools have a way of being too close for comfort.  2003 was the last time Clemson defeated the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium so any delusions of grandeur that the Tigers roll into the ATL and steamroll Georgia Tech is ludicrous.

            Offensively this Georgia Tech team set the world on fire to start the season rolling up staggering numbers. The Jackets rolled up 700-plus yards of offense on Kansas. While they have not come close to that type of production in conference games, the explosiveness is in place to where a defensive guy fails to do his job, they are playing the fight song.  Georgia Tech has good pieces, Tevin Washington their signal caller is capable of getting the ball to his playmakers on the perimeter. Tech has Stephen Hill a tall receiver who is capable of making plays in the pass game. Orwin Smith who plays a slot back position is a big time playmaker on the ground and through the air.

            Georgia Tech makes defenses play football the old fashion way. They do a lot of things to get you out of position or to lull you to sleep and it only takes one guy sleep walking for them to put six on the board quickly. Georgia Tech forces a defense to read, get off blocks, tackle, play with good pursuit and leverage. In today’s age of the spread you see teams utilize more hybrid type athletes to play certain positions to try to maximize speed on the field. What happens against the Yellow Jackets is the guy who has great speed, athleticism, can get sideline to sideline has to play down in the box with linemen and running backs leaning on them and you are asking them to process a lot of information each play, it can get dicey to say the least.

            Clemson is going to have to do an exceptional job of playing assignment football. You will hear the term “playing with your eyes” a lot this week. Whatever a defensive player’s key is they have to lock in on that assignment and nothing else or the Yellow Jacket band is going to be playing the fight song a lot of Saturday night.  In order for Clemson to be successful they are going to have to win the battle up front. It is simple as that. If Clemson gets pushed around, is not disciplined or fails to tackle, they will be in for a long evening.

            Clemson is going to find a motivated, desperate football team similar to the team they found in College Park, MD two weeks ago. Georgia Tech is an offensive football team that has lost its swagger in recent weeks. I assure you, it only takes a few plays for the Yellow Jackets to find their groove and get it going.
            On the defensive side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets are improving. The transition to the 3-4 defense is not something that takes hold over night. As they get the right personnel and more comfortable with the scheme they have improved their on field performance.  This is a Georgia Tech secondary that will go to great lengths to prevent big plays in the pass game. This has left them susceptible to give up yards on the ground at times but this is a blue-collar group who will force you to matriculate the ball down the field.

            The kicking game is going to be huge this week. I have talked about some of Clemson’s issues in the kickoff game. Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman seems prime for getting a punt block given how slow he is on his drop. The Jackets also struggle in various facets of the kicking game and there may be some opportunities for Clemson to take advantage. If I am Clemson and Georgia Tech is lined up to punt. I am playing my base defense I am sure I am identifying where guys are on the field. Tech Coach Paul Johnson is not afraid to call a fake from any point on the field.

            This is a game where Clemson has a personnel advantage at a lot of positions but unfortunately the game will not be played on paper. The Yellow Jackets present problems offensively, defensively and special teams. Can Clemson be physical on defense, play assignment football and tackle? Expect Georgia Tech to go deep early and often given our struggles against the deep pass. Can Georgia Tech take Clemson’s vertical passing game away? If they do can Tajh get the ball where it needs to be without turning the ball over? Will we see the run game get going after struggling against North Carolina? I am hearing that Andre Ellington will be limited this week, it may be an opportunity for Mike Bellamy or DJ Howard to step up if Ellington is limited.

            Interesting fact in recent history in Georgia Tech-Clemson match ups, close games have been won by the Yellow Jackets, the blowouts have been won by Clemson, we will see if that trend holds on Saturday. Tajh Boyd has to continue to play well, the offensive line that has improved during the course of the season have to play well against the odd front of Georgia Tech. Everyone should expect a four quarter battle in Atlanta, where if Clemson is not on their game, they will suffer their first defeat of the season.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

These boys are special....

            It was the of worst of times, it was the best of times. That pretty much sums up the game at Maryland Saturday night. I had grown more confident as the week went on but my worse fears that I had going back to when the game time was originally announced were fulfilled.  You saw a desperate Maryland team come out raring to go offensively and a Clemson team that looked like the clock had finally struck twelve.

            Despite the questionable opening kickoff return, the Clemson offense went down the field with relatively ease only to settle for a field goal after having the ball inside the three-yard line. Then the wheels promptly seemed to come off the bus. After getting a stop Clemson botched a punt return and gave Maryland the ball inside their ten-yard line and would score a touchdown a few plays later. On the following Clemson offensive possession, Clemson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

            It was 14-3 Maryland and many Clemson fans were thinking this ain’t good. Clemson would find itself down 28-10 at one point in the first half before cutting the lead to 28-17 with two minutes before halftime. At this point it was apparent the offense was starting to find itself. Tajh Boyd who had looked like a dumpster fire early on, had settled down and there was a sense that the only team that could stop the Clemson offense was the Clemson offense.

            The turning point for me was when Maryland got the ball after Clemson had cut the lead to 28-17. If you remember the Terps quarterback, CJ Brown had gone up and down the field with ease throughout the first half. Despite getting the ball deep in Clemson territory, if I was the Maryland Head Coach, I have to try to get points before half. I understood his thinking, Maryland got the ball to start the second half no need to risk it. Maybe under ordinary circumstances I would agree.

            It was clear, however that Maryland was going to need all the points it could get if they were going to pull off the upset. At that point momentum had shifted towards the guys in orange, I thought Coach Edsall and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton would be more aggressive before the half. One run up the middle and a quarterback kneel and it was halftime. It was apparent to me and a lot of Clemson fans that Randy Edsall knew he was the luckiest man on the planet.

            You have to give Maryland credit they came out and started the second half by going down the field and scoring a touchdown like the Clemson scout team defense was on the field. It was 35-17 yet most Clemson fans in the stands felt like there was too much football remaining and were confident this team would respond.

            And boy did this team respond. The Tigers outscored Maryland 39-17 in the second half. The defense finally came up with a few stops when we had to have them. I have to admit, I was the only Clemson fan on the planet who was pissed off when Sammy Watkins went 89 yards on a kickoff return. Maryland had just scored and we were about to put a tired defense right back on the field against a Terrapin offense that had shown it could sustain drives. At that point I wanted to see Clemson sustain a drive, run some clock and take the lead. Good thing for Clemson the defense came up with a huge stop and several plays later Andre Ellington sealed the win for the Tigers with a 44-yard touchdown run.

            Speaking of Andre Ellington, can the boy get some love? The junior from Moncks Corner, SC ran for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns Saturday night.  Let that marinate for a minute. Andre Ellington rushed for over 200 yards in a game and no one is talking about it. CJ Spiller was the last Clemson back to rush for over 200 yards when he ran for 233 yards against Georgia Tech in 2009.

            I love Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen and Tajh Boyd but Clemson had a running back rush for over 200 yards in a football game and that needs to be recognized. Credit needs to be given to the offensive line that asserted its will on the Maryland defense throughout the game. It was fun watching Ellington look like his old self, gracefully gutting the Terrapin defense.

            Ladies and Gentlemen, this Clemson team is special. I have been to Byrd Stadium more times than I would like to admit and seen Clemson teams embarrass themselves. It looked like they were on their way to another disappointing crash landing in College Park last Saturday. This team was not going to be denied. Overcoming two 18-point deficits to ultimately win by 11 points is no small feat. I saw a team show no panic and poise in a tough situation. We know how previous teams would have responded.

            To go on the road and weather the storm like they did is something special. There is no other way today say it. You look back and you see teams who have special seasons and there is always a game or two where they are forced to respond during a less than stellar performance. This team persevered and was able to improve its record to 7-0.
            In come the Tar Heels from Chapel Hill for a noon kickoff at Death Valley. The trials and tribulations of the North Carolina football program have been well documented over the past two years. The biggest surprise came a week before fall camp started when then Head Coach Butch Davis was relieved of his duties.

            The Heels come into the game on Saturday with a 5-2 record with losses to Georgia Tech and Miami. Last week the Tar Heels fell behind early and saw their comeback bid fall short in the closing seconds. This is a team with good players, many who were recruited by Clemson, including Tar Heel receiver Dwight Jones who was once committed to Clemson but was told he would not earn admissions to Clemson and signed with North Carolina. Yes, try to figure that one out.

            North Carolina is led by Springfield, VA native Bryn Renner who has had a nice year through seven games, completing 75% of passes. Freshman running back Giovani Bernard comes into the contest on Saturday having rushed for at least 100 yards in the last five games. You couple that with Dwight Jones who is slightly ahead of Sammy Watkins in receiving statistics, the Clemson defense will have their hands full on Saturday. They are not flashy, but they are content executing their offense and taking their shots down the field when appropriate. The Tar Heel offensive line is huge averaging 320 pounds across the front, they also are experienced. Clemson is going to have to play well to have chance to slow down the efficient North Carolina offense.

            The UNC defense comes into Death Valley yielding only 109 yards of rushing offense per game. The Tar Heel defense is led by linebacker Zach Brown and defensive end Quinton Coples who is a sure first early round NFL draft pick.  Things are not so rosy in the North Carolina secondary where the Tar Heels are giving up 250 yards through the air per contest.

            There will be opportunities to make plays through the air and the Tigers will have to run it enough to win against a solid UNC team. I expect the game to be a close contest. North Carolina is certain to take their shots deep throughout the game on Saturday. Slowing down the running back Bernard is going to be important in slowing down the Carolina play action pass game.

            The Tigers can’t sleep walk this week. Another slow start coupled with a fast start by Carolina could prove costly. I do not think the Clemson faithful will allow that this week. There is an article circulating quoting UNC quarterback Bryn Renner talking about Death Valley as being no worse than ECU. Bless is Northern Virginia heart. I think Mr. Renner has provided the juice Clemson fans needed as noon approaches on Saturday.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

6 and Oh $^%$ (For Full Disclosure)

****I had to post this blog first before moving on for full disclosure purposes.            

           Clemson nation’s hearts suffered collective palpitations half way through the third quarter on Saturday as they watched starting quarterback Tajh Boyd laying on the ground after being hit in the lower left leg. As the replays began to play those palpitations turned into utter dismay then to anger. Lets face it my world was crashing in on me quickly.

            In came Cole Stoudt a true freshman from Dublin, OH. No that is not a typo, the backup quarterback at Clemson is from Dublin, OH located outside of Columbus. While the game was continuing, most Clemson fans were setting their hopes and dreams on fire. On Stoudt’s first play he fired an incomplete pass to Dwayne Allen and Clemson ended up settling for a field goal.

            Fast forwarding to today and having time as perspective, Cole Stoudt was thrown into a precarious situation down on the three yard line going in to score and then coming off the two yard line just a mere 98 yards from the goal line. He did not let the moment completely overwhelm him. You could see in his eyes that he was not caught up in the moment and yes Coach Morris was not going to put the youngster in a bad situation but he led this team on three scoring drives to seal a game that felt very much in doubt there for awhile.

            In the midst of the Boyd injury and hearing maybe it was not as bad as most had feared what got lost is that Clemson is 6-0. This is a program that only won 6 games all of last year. Remember this is a team that many people had 3-3 at this point based on preseason prognostications, luckily for us games are played on the field and not on paper.

            Now here comes Maryland. A lot of talking heads have been talking about a Clemson let down, people are waiting on baited breath to say, “I told you so,” when talking about the 2011 Clemson football team. In all seriousness this is the week I think Clemson fans need to be concerned.

            Full disclosure, I loathe the University of Maryland. I loathe College Park, MD, I despise Terp fans, Byrd Stadium is more awkward looking than Billy Brice Stadium in Columbia. I have no use for Maryland.

            All that said this game Saturday scares the heck out of me. It scared the heck out of me when they announce the 7 o’clock game time two weeks ago long before Tajh Boyd was writhing in pain on the field of Frank Howard Field. Maryland is one of those teams that seemingly puts a good performance together against Clemson. Now a lot of that had to do with Ralph Friedgen who disliked Clemson as much as I dislike my feathered colleagues from Columbia. The Big Man always had a great plan for Clemson and won a lot of games against the Tigers during his tenure.

            Fortunately, for Clemson fans Coach Friedgen was fired after last season after leading the Terps to their best season in years and winning ACC Coach of the Year. In comes former UCONN coach Rand Edsall and the transition has been more turbulent than most would have thought given what Maryland was returning. The Terps played a depleted  (suspensions) Miami team on Labor Day night in a game where their uniforms made more news in the D.C. area than their win over Miami. 

            Maryland comes into this week with a 2-3 record with wins over Miami and Towson. The hardshells were manhandled by Temple, came up short late against West Virginia and hung in there with Georgia Tech. The message from the Maryland coaching staff is that they are close to putting it all together. More importantly Maryland is hosting the eighth ranked team in the nation coming into their house in primetime.

            I just do not feel good about this one. There is no logic behind my feelings. The reality remains Clemson is better than Maryland but that does not always to translate on the field. The longer the win streak goes on the more nervous I get earlier in the week.

            I talked to a friend earlier this week and he reminded me “film doesn’t lie.” When you watch this Clemson team on film they can beat you in a lot of different ways. It is not merely stopping one guy and you win. If you decide that Sammy Watkins is not going to beat you, you better have a plan for Dwayne Allen, Jaron Brown, Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. That is enough to keep a defensive coordinator up late when they are trying to prepare for this football team.

            On the other side of the ball, the Clemson defensive front has started to come into their own. Led by senior Brandon Thompson, the Clemson defensive line has really come up big for this team as the season has progressed with big stops at key moments. This will continue Saturday in College Park.

            The weather here in the DC area is supposed to be cool and windy Saturday evening. The kicking game is going to have to be spot on. You could tell this team missed Spencer Benton last week with the short kickoffs. Clemson cannot give Maryland any cheap ones.

            There are questions at Maryland on who will start at quarterback for the Terrapins Saturday. Reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’brien was replaced in last week’s game against Georgia Tech by Sophomore CJ Wilson who led the Terps on a second half come back that came up short in a 21-16 loss to the Yellow Jackets.

            O’brien is by far the better passer though he has struggled in recent weeks after playing well in the first two weeks of the year. Wilson is the better runner of the two and demonstrated those attributes on a 77-yard touchdown run last week in Atlanta. It will be interesting to see who Coach Edsall goes with. I would not be surprised if you see both quarterbacks play.

            Clemson fans need to familiarize themselves with Terrapin defensive tackle Joe Vellano, quarterbacks Scott O’brien and CJ Wilson, running back Davin Megget, and South Carolina native Ronnie Tyler. Vellano had 20 tackles last week against Georgia Tech, defensive tackles do not have 20 tackles in a game without playing with great effort. Megget is capable if he gets going, Tyler is a legit deep threat for Maryland. They have athletes who can play so Clemson has to show up and play well if they are going to win on Saturday.

            When the dust clears I do think Clemson’s offensive pace and defense gets the Tigers out of College Park with a win but I think it is closer than the experts think.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Setting the tone.....

            What a turn of events experienced by Clemson fans since the last time I wrote. The Tigers showed true mettle against a scrappy Florida State team and did what many thought was unthinkable, and went to Blacksburg in a cold rain and defeated the defending ACC Champions 23-3.

            Now here we are October 2011 and the Clemson Tigers are 5-0 heading into their second division game as Boston College comes to Clemson Saturday on Homecoming. I am tickled to death about what this team has accomplished up to this point. The key phrase is “up to this point”. I have tuned into the talk shows on WCCP and I have seen the love Clemson has been getting on ESPN. Friends, we are a mere five-games into a twelve game season.

            I could not be more excited about being ranked in the Top 10 nationally, it excites me to see my alma mater talked about on ESPN and on other national shows but trophies are not awarded after five games. I swell with pride every time I see the paw displayed on the screen or hear media types like Jack Arute, Bill King and Mike Leach talk about Clemson on their respective nationally syndicated shows but the war has not yet been won.

            Never in a million years did I see this team going through the past three games undefeated. There cannot be very many well reasoned individuals who on September 2, 2011 who could have convinced me that this team would go 3-0 against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. In fact I wrote a long and emotional email to my father prior to the season cautioning expectations, how Coach Swinney did not need to be on the hot seat regardless of the results of the last three games in September. Most know now that 42 of the 85 scholarship players on the Clemson roster are either redshirt or true freshmen. No one likes to hear about a coach having a young team but it could not be truer when examining the Clemson roster.

            In the same email I sought to temper Signing Day zeal by reminding my father that people need to realize that the recent additions to the Clemson Football family were in the midst of making a significant life transition of which football is merely a small part of the puzzle. I went on to write about the need for leadership within IPTAY and the Athletic Department not to get caught up in the whims of fans and stay the course given what the new additions could do in the future, not this season.

            I have to admit that I was wrong about this team, about some of these freshmen, about how quickly this team would gel.  There was nothing in the last decade that could have given me or any other realistic Clemson fan an inkling that the 2011 team would come out of the gate in spectacular fashion.

            The big three game gauntlet is now over. If you are a Clemson fan, the words Boston College should cause you to feel a nauseous feeling in your stomach. Since joining the ACC 2005 Boston College has caused much consternation and heartbreak among Clemson fans. Boston College holds a 4-2 advantage over Clemson since 2005. I do not find it necessary to rehash the overtime losses and the disappointment back in 2007 and the empty feeling I experienced leaving Alumni Stadium last fall.

            That all being said the 2011 Boston College football team is bad. The Eagles are 1-4 on the year and have struggled offensively missing All-ACC running back Montel Harris early in the season. Harris is back and has run the ball well but the Eagles have failed to find their stride with sophomore quarterback Chase Rettig under center. Boston College has suffered losses to Northwestern, Central Florida, Duke and Wake Forest. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a Clemson nuclear meltdown on Saturday.

            You can say what you want about Boston College, you can talk about their stadium, their talent, their fans or lack their of but, the Eagles have been a thorn in the side of Clemson since the day they joined the ACC. For any Clemson fan to be “looking ahead” is silly.

            This is not an attempt to diminish what Clemson has accomplished on the football field during the last three weeks but, the season started Saturday after the Virginia Tech game. Hate to rain on the Clemson parade but it is easy to get excited about playing the defending National Champions from Clemson without a lake, it is easy to get excited about Florida State, there is no lack of motivation going on the road playing a team that has beaten you five straight times.

            How does this team handle itself going into a game where they are favored by three touchdowns? How does this team perform when they have a clear personnel advantage at almost every position? Can this team come out and take care of business or will they come out Saturday thinking they can just show up and find themselves in a dogfight?

            Saturday will set the tone for the rest of the season. If this Clemson team can come out and deliver a solid performance and leave no doubt that they are the better team it will go a long way in determining how far this team can go. If this team comes out sloppy, missing tackles, dropping passes, unable to block, turning the ball over and missing kicks, Clemson will be facing a repeat of their 2010 trip to Chestnut Hill.

            There has been a lot of talk on message boards and talk shows on how this Clemson team could go undefeated. I remind you that Clemson still has Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and South Carolina left to play. North Carolina State is the only team on the remaining schedule that Clemson has beaten on a consistent basis in the last several years.

            In the same way David Wilson the running back from Virginia Tech got his yards during the game last week, I think Montel Harris will do the same thing. You have to give the young man his due. He was a high school teammate of former Clemson running back Jamie Harper. Harris can play and will be a focal point for the Eagles offense and Clemson defense.

            On the other side of the ball Clemson fans will get a chance to see the best defensive player in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. He is on pace to shatter the ACC tackle record and he is only a junior. Absent from the Eagles’ defense are space eaters like B.J. Raji. There is a lot of youth in the secondary and Clemson should be able to take advantage of the inexperience and mismatches Boston College presents.

            Reiterating my earlier thoughts, Boston College is good enough to beat Clemson if the Tigers show up on Saturday thinking that they are on a coronation tour to Charlotte. Fans do not need to get complacent and come to the Valley on Saturday thinking that they are in for Saturday afternoon mingle at the Polo Grounds.

 It is incumbent upon this staff to keep the pressure on the team to prepare for Boston College and Boston College only. Fans can sit around and pontificate but they better head to Clemson with their minds right that Boston College is coming into Clemson not intimidated in the least. I assure you they do not give a rip about Clemson’s previous opponents or that the guys on the other side of the ball have won five games. They know that history says if they play their game, they have an excellent chance of coming out with a win when the clock hits 0:00.

The talk and the media attention is nice but there is a game to be played on Saturday and the tone for the second half of the season starts with Clemson coming out and performing well against Boston College.

******9:15 p.m. October 5, 2011 Per the Boston Herald Boston College Running Back Montel Harris will miss the Clemson game.******